It’s just another stupid fad was my first thought when I heard the phrase ‘bullet journal’. I was a bit confused by the concept – do you fire notebooks from a massive gun? Riddle your least favourite with bullets so the others don’t suffer your rage? Is it shaped like a bullet? – until I found out it was nothing to do with actual bullets and maybe I should stop being so bloody literal.
Bullet journaling is an organisation system. That’s about it. (You can visit the bullet journal starter page to get more of an idea what it’s about.) But its simplicity means it’s adaptable, and I realised that it could be a useful addition to my writing process.
Plus, it gave me the excuse to buy a new notebook, because this one needed numbered pages and bookmarks and there’s this Leuchtturm 1917 in lemon yellow with dotted pages that I really fancy…
You will not believe how seriously some people take this. Have a look at ‘bullet journal’ results on Instagram or YouTube for a few examples. Mine does not look like any of those, nor will it ever. However, I’m now putting the effort into making mine look a bit nicer simply because it has the same mindfulness properties as those adult colouring books but it feels a lot more productive.
The great thing about a bullet journal is that it doesn’t matter diddly-squat how other people are using it or how pretty yours is in comparison – it just needs to work for you.
But it can look daunting at first, so I’ve created a 10-page guide to getting started below, focusing on the needs of writers.
I did this guide because it would have been nice to have one myself. My April set-up was appalling. It didn’t work for me; so many sections were left blank, and it made me not want to use it. That was mostly because mine was based on a set-up written by a lifestyle blogger, and I am not a lifestyle blogger. So the key is finding a system that works for you and your needs.
This guide is based on what I know works for me, mostly in terms of my current writing project – it’s a suggestion, and you may want to adapt some of it or leave other bits. That’s cool. I don’t mind.
To get started, all you need is a notebook and a pen. And possibly a ruler; it makes a difference. Dotted page notebooks are usually recommended but you do you.
Index. Essential if, like me, you will never remember which way round the migration and scheduling arrows go. See the bullet journal website for a guide.
Contents. Also essential as it stops you flicking through the journal endlessly to find wherever you’d put your daily log that week.
Pages 1 & 2: Future log. I do 3 months to a page, to write down events that will be happening that I will want to plan ahead for. Example: my niece’s naming ceremony is in July. This month also contains Boyfriend’s birthday, my brother’s birthday, his wedding anniversary, and a four-day festival. Busy month. Good to have it all written down.
Page 3: Habit tracker. I like having this on the left next to the monthly summary (see below) so it’s near the start of the month. I have a whole heap of stuff here but you don’t need to have that many. Also, bear in mind it’s not about developing new habits necessarily – it’s more for finding patterns in your current behaviour and seeing what, if anything, needs to change. Maybe you never seem to hit your wordcount on Mondays. Why is that? Is it anything you can change?
Page 4: Monthly summary. Vertical calendar, which I have divided into Personal and Writing, seems to be a popular choice, but some draw a box-style calendar instead. Whatever works.
Page 5: Journal. I use this to write down whatever I may want to remember about the month. Maybe I passed a Twitter or Instagram milestone, maybe I finished another draft, maybe I enlisted some beta readers.
Page 6: Social media/blog admin. I currently just do blog admin as my social media use is limited to Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads and Tumblr at the moment, which is manageable. Once they mushroom beyond that I’ll need a similar system.
Page 7 & 8: Project tracker. If you’re working on something, it might be an idea to have a double-page spread to track it. Since my project is 7 interconnecting stories, I have 7 projects to juggle at once and need to know what stories are at what stage at a glance.
Page 8 & 9: Daily log. My system manages to fit a week onto a page, so I can see two weeks in total, but you may need more or less space. This is more personal than writing-related for me, but yours may weigh more towards writing or work or something else.
Page 10: Brain dump. I like the idea of sandwiching the brain dump in between two Daily Log spreads so you can flick to it at any time of the month. Here is where you can write down whatever you need to – example: I intend to start a YouTube channel in the next few months, but I may have ideas for vlogs now that I want to record somewhere I can reference them later.
That should get you going initially, and if you find you like it you can add in all the fun stuff later. You can get all fancy with tape and coloured pens or you can keep it simple, but at the heart of it is making sure you feel organised and on top of your schedule.
Other miscellaneous stuff I have put in mine includes:
Minimalism challenge. I have a lot of stuff. I want to get rid of a lot of stuff. So this is where I am recording how to get rid of 325 items I no longer use or want, by starting with one item on day one, then two items on day two, and so on for 25 days.
Books I’ve read. I try to read a lot but in between a full-time job, my writing project, staying active on social media, eating properly, and getting out the house sometimes, it’s a little tricky. I’m aiming for two books a month. I even found bookshelf washi tape for this section, which I was chuffed about in a sad sort of way.
Things I don’t have include my writing project planning, as that deserves a book of its own, and ideas I have on the go, as I carry a smaller notebook around with me for that purpose.
Hopefully you found this useful – let me know in the comments if you have, and share with anyone else who you think might like it also. If you have a bullet journal, how do you set yours up for writing? Or do you think this is a ridiculous fad that will pass in a flash, leaving forests’ worth of discarded notebooks in its wake?